Last edited 30 Sep 2018

Specifications for Building Conservation - Volume 1: External Structure

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Specifications for Building Conservation - Volume 1: External Structure, Edited by Rory Cullen and Rick Meier, Routledge, 2016, 204 pages, black and white and colour illustrations.

When the parcel arrived, I had expected an item the size of the revised Historic England guidance manuals and was a little shocked when I saw the small but perfectly formed book. As you would expect from something touched by the hand of Rory Cullen, however, it is clear, concise, accessible and full of very useful information.

By using good examples of projects undertaken by surveyors at the National Trust, the book provides an excellent basis for working with historic buildings, understanding the challenges and expressing the required works in clear, simple English. The case studies cover a variety of everyday buildings such as cottages and a humble timber-framed donkey wheel, to grander buildings such as Hardwick Hall. This shows not only the wide variety of buildings that the trust looks after, but also how it values the sum of its buildings regardless of size or scale. Each building is clearly regarded as significant and important in its own right, a message which is reinforced throughout the book.

Part 1 deals with conservation philosophy and principles, including procurement and specification, while Part 2 presents case studies, taking each building element in turn and providing guidance on how the correct works were specified. The first chapter looks at building recording, and why understanding the building – its significance and management – is just as important as specifying the correct works and materials for conservation.

The case studies and the overview of legislation and guidance are worth the cost of the book alone. In addition, the appendices make it extremely helpful, since they provide tried-and-tested templates for conservation management plans and statements, briefs for surveys and methodologies for historic buildings surveys. Further reading is provided via the comprehensive, but carefully selected, bibliography.

This book will appeal to those starting in the business, looking to transfer from normal surveying to heritage work, to managers seeking an understanding of the process, and to conservation officers requiring guidance about what should be included in a specification. It will also serve as a general reference book for any surveyor working with historic buildings.

In addition to its value as a technical handbook, the profits from sales go to support the National Trust building apprenticeship scheme. This helps to foster the transfer of knowledge and experience to the next generation, with hands-on experience and training within the direct-labour teams employed by the National Trust.


This article originally appeared in IHBC’s Context 154, published in May 2018. It was written by Janice Gooch, architectural historian and building surveyor.

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